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I have a problem: every time I walk in the door of Donald's house, all my energy drains away. The house is hot—sometimes unbearably hot—and stuffy, and stinks of tobacco. I can't open the windows, because they're painted shut and lack screens. (Old Pittsburghers kept their houses sealed up tight in order to keep out the black soot from the steel mills.) Even if I could get the windows open, I couldn't install air conditioners, because the 1910-vintage wiring wouldn't bear the load. I have five box fans, but they just push the hot, stale air around.

But there's more to it than the climate. There's just too much to do, and it paralyzes me. I look around me and see ten things that need doing. I start to do one of them, which involves carrying an object into another room. As soon as I enter, I see ten more things that need to be done. And so on. I end up wandering around, not completing any task.


After a while I sink down in front of the portable camping table that I put in the living room to give myself a place to work, and sort aimlessly through the stack of papers there. Then I pull out my iPad and check my email, maybe read a few websites using Flipboard. A depressing gray drizzle falls outside. I know I should go back to work, but it's so hard to move from this chair.

I've got to snap out of this lethargy. Got to stop complaining about the humidity (aaargghh!) and heat, got to get moving and clean this place out so I can go home to New Mexico.

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